I finally got myself a copy of Judith Martin’s Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, and I devoured that sucker more or less instantaneously. I love her approach to ettiquette: it mostly boils down to making people feel comfortable, and taking care not to offend them. It’s not about rules for the sake of form, and she’s unwavering in rejecting old traditions that make no sense. What I like best is how she applies her general prinicples to modern issues by creating contemporary versions of old forms. Just sometimes, though, she doesn’t get it quite right, like the whole destination wedding thing. Today I’m going to talk about invitations.
The levels of formality in correspondence, according to Miss Manners, go like this:
Third person engraved or calligraphy invitation
First person handwritten letter
Word of mouth.
Only Tier 1 is considered formal, Tier 2 is informal, and poor old email is “That most informal of communications”. So if you are sending out wedding invitations, your options are a formal engraved/letterpress/calligraphied invitation in third person, or to handwrite a letter on your supposed personal stationery where you say something like, “Dear Granny, I’d love you to come to our wedding…”
Well, first of all, she needs to get with the program on forms of printing that aren’t engraving or calligraphy (which incidentally, are damn expensive). That’s just not the world we live in. And then secondly, it’s not true that email can’t be formal. I’ve sent and received a billion formal business emails. Roughly, email today fills exactly the same niche that handwritten letters did before internet. It’s how we talk to our friends, it’s how we get business done.
So Miss Manners’ recommendations need to be adjusted down a notch. A handwritten letter is so rare these days, that that stuff is formal. And email is fine for almost anything she would want handwritten.
And as usual, I’m obsessed with the idea that wedding receptions need to reflect more our actual lives and culture, and reflect less our inner fantasy to live inside the world of Pride and Prejudice. Because unless you’re pretty wealthy, it’s not going to be like the Bingleys. And the bridal party will look like they’re at a different event from the guests. That’s a pet peeve.
USA-ian bloggers kind of give a different impression*, but the in the world that I live in, letterpress and calligraphy invitations do not happen even for the big special parties. My Dad is having a biggish 60th birthday bash this weekend – I’m pretty sure he just emailed people. 21st parties generally involve a home-designed, home-printed DIY invitation.
We want to have a beach party reception that maybe includes swimming: NOT FORMAL. So I’m not seeing the need for major *jazz hands* invitations. But, it is our wedding. It’s still very very special. I’m thinking handwritten cards, written in first person in my best cursvive (I’ve been loving this idea since this post on ESB).
And dudes, save-the-dates. Let’s not make that a thing, when it doesn’t need to be. That shit is going to be a group email. Done.
*Americans, seriously, do you guys really give out fancy invitations for birthday parties, or is that just blogdom misleading me? I’d actually love to know.